Disclaimer- I do not own DGM nor any of the characters.
Chapter Nine- Different as Night and Day
Neah's words caused the heartbreak that Mana was already feeling to intensify more than he would have thought possible. What could possibly have happened to the younger boy after they were separated to have turned the kind and quiet child that he remembered into such a jaded individual. Blinking a couple of times so that the tears that were welling up in his eyes didn't fall Mana continued to stare at his brother. "What happened to you Neah?" It was such a simple question really but one that the teen felt compelled to ask none the less.
Even though he was somewhat afraid of the answer that he would get.
Neah didn't even so much as bat an eye as he stared directly into his brother's eyes. He could see the emotions that were held within, could easily read them and therefore knew how much pain this was causing the older, but he was unaffected. Or at least that was what the boy kept trying to tell himself. "You sure you really want me to answer that question?" Neah asked as he gave his older brother a pointed look. Mana knew what their father had been like so it really shouldn't require that much elaboration.
And hearing the truth might cause him even more pain.
The Musician kept telling himself over and over in his mind that he didn't care if the answer to the question made Mana feel even worse than he already did but of course there was a small part of himself that knew that if this were really the case he wouldn't have to keep repeating it over and over. Neah shrugged this thought off however as he continued to gaze at Mana without blinking.
Mana hesitated for only a split second as he gazed into Neah's steely dark eyes before nodding his head in the affirmative. He might not want to know, and the truth may cause him pain, but the fact remained that he needed to know. He needed to understand what had happened to his brother to cause him this level of pain… to cause him to completely turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. "Yes Neah. I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want to know."
"Alright then," Neah said calmly, his expression still stoic. "After you were taken by those men in black our father blamed me for what happened… or else wished that I had been the one they had kidnapped instead of you. That was the question that he constantly asked; why was it you instead of me? Of course I asked myself the same question as he grew more and more violent toward me. Why had they taken you, the only advocate that I had, and left me to suffer alone in that hell? " At this point Neah paused for a moment, letting all of that sink in before he delivered the real bombshell. He could see the guilt that had appeared in his brother's eyes but completely ignored it. It didn't matter how badly Mana felt about what had happened… the fact remained that none of it could be changed. "This went on for a long time… couldn't really tell you an exact time frame but too long in my opinion… until one day I just snapped. I had taken all the abuse that I could from that old bastard and in the end, well, suffice it to say that I gave as good as I got."
At this point a slightly sinister smile spread slowly across Neah's face as he recalled the shocked look on the man's face when the child that he had terrorized had suddenly turned on him and fought back. That was the first time that the Noah side of him had ever made an appearance and, as morbid as it sounded, one of the highlights of Neah's life.
Mana actually gasped as he realized the significance of Neah's words and saw the disturbing smile that his brother was now wearing. He actually shuddered as a mental image entered into his mind of his brother stained in the blood of their father but, shaking his head, he turned to Neah with an understanding look. "No one can blame you for that Neah… What he did to you was completely uncalled for. But that doesn't mean that the rest of humanity is like that and deserves the same treatment."
Neah gazed at his brother with a challenging look. "All humans are the same. They'll willingly sacrifice others for their own gains every time. Prove me wrong."
Sighing slightly Mana crossed the distance that separated him from his brother, before the younger even had the chance to move away, and wrapped his arms around Neah. "I'm really sorry that I wasn't there to protect you Neah… Maybe if I'd fought harder then you wouldn't have had to endure something so traumatic." It was obvious that what had happened had scarred the boy more than even Neah realized and Mana desperately wanted to do something to take away the slightly haunted expression that he saw whenever he looked into his brother's eyes.
Neah reflexively tensed as his brother embraced him but he was actually too shocked to try and pull away.
"I don't fucking believe this," Cross spoke up, thusly reminding the pair of siblings that he was indeed still present and watching this rather girlish display. "Walker! You do realize that this brat is the enemy right?"
Loosening his grasp on his brother somewhat but not completely letting him go Mana turned to glare at his partner. There was a dangerous look in his normally kind eyes that actually made his partner take a step back. "I can hurt you, y'know. And I hope that you realize that Neah is my brother and I won't abandon him again."
Hearing these words seemed to snap Neah out of whatever trance like state he'd fallen into and he forcibly pulled himself free from the grasp of his older brother. Taking a couple of steps back, so that he was out of arm's reach of Mana, Neah shook his head. "No Mana the red headed fool has a very valid point, as much as I hate to admit it. I can't change what I've become."
Mana shook his head in return, making a move to step back toward his brother. "You may not be able to change what you are Neah but that shouldn't affect who you are. Only you can decide for yourself what kind of a person you are and…" Mana paused at this point as his thoughts shifted back to the scene of carnage in the village. He shuddered as he vividly recalled the faces of the dead once more but shook this off and continued. "I know that you're a better person than that. The fact that you didn't take part in the killing is proof enough as far as I'm concerned."
Neah blinked a couple of times in mild shock. This was pretty much the last thing that he had expected to hear from his brother and the Musician admittedly didn't know how to react to it. Here he stood, a member of the Family of Noah who was siding with the Millennium Earl in this war, and yet his brother, an Exorcist and ally of the Black Order, was actually telling him that he wasn't beyond redemption. Shaking his head the fourteen year old turned his gaze back to the river that he had been peacefully watching before his brother and the red headed fool had ruined said peace. He needed a minute to digest this newest in a series of shocks.
With a slight chuckle Neah once again turned his gaze toward his brother. "You always were too forgiving Mana."
Mana simply held up his hands and made no attempt to deny his brother's words. "What can I say, it's just a character flaw that I'm doomed to be stuck with forever."
Neah's expression turned serious at this point. "No. It's a character flaw that's going to get you killed if you aren't careful." There was just the barest hint of a sad tone hidden within his voice that it would take someone very perceptive to notice.
Or someone that had known Neah for a long time.
"So you are worried about me huh Neah boy?" Mana said in a light teasing tone. "That makes me feel a great deal better but if I have to either die or give up my trust in humanity then I guess I'm just destined to die. Because I refuse to do anything other than look for the good in people. Everyone has good points, even Cross over there."
Both Neah and Cross snorted at this comment, though most likely both for different reasons.
"Damn," Cross growled as he gazed at his so called partner. "I knew that you were a pathetic individual but this level of idiocy is something that even I didn't see coming."
Mana just turned to the man with a shrug but Neah rushed forward, seizing the red headed Exorcist by the collar and roughly slamming the larger male against a tree. With a strength belied by his small stature Neah actually held the older teen suspended off the ground a few feet and pinned to the tree. "You are the last person who should have anything to say about someone being an idiot," the Noah youth growled, fixing narrowed eyes on the Exorcist.
"NEAH!" Rushing forward Mana pried his brother's hands from Cross' jacket, noting the shocked expression that had appeared on his partner's face as well as the fact that the teen's face was beginning to turn slightly blue. "I appreciate the fact that you're sticking up for me but this really isn't necessary." He smiled slightly as Neah released his grip, grateful that the younger teen had seen fit to do so since he wasn't sure whether he could have forced it if Neah had decided to resist. "Remind me not to ever make you angry," he playfully teased as Cross massaged his throat and tried to catch his breath.
Neah merely shrugged his shoulders and turned to walk away.
"Where the hell do you think you're going brat?" Cross demanded once he had caught his breath enough to speak. While that move had caused him to become slightly more wary of the Noah brat there was still nothing but contempt for the youth contained within his red eyed gaze.
Mana didn't really agree with the way that Cross chose to ask the question but he none the less wanted an answer to it as well. "Where are you going Neah?" he asked in a more polite tone, tilting his head slightly to the side as he gazed at his brother in question.
"Somewhere, anywhere," Neah replied with a slight shrug of his shoulders. "Doesn't really matter where, I don't suppose." But it wasn't as though he could just remain here in this place talking to a pair of Exorcists. While he wouldn't have minded spending a bit more time with his brother, admittedly, the other one was an annoyance that he could do without. Between Noah and the other members of his so called family Neah got plenty of aggravation without that red headed fool adding to it. "I just can't stay here."
"But Neah…" Mana began, not wanting his brother to leave.
Neah shook his head and continued walking. "I told you Mana… I can't change what I am."
"Neah, please wait…" Mana called out to his brother, moving to follow the younger teen, but Neah sprinted off down the path before the older teen even got the chance to take a step. Looking slightly crestfallen Mana turned back to his partner. "Well that could have gone better."
Cross, for once, decided not to be an ass. Shrugging his shoulders he dead-panned, "Could have gone worse too."
Mana blinked a couple of times in surprise as he gazed at his partner. Had Cross actually just tried to make him feel better about the situation? Well wonders really would never cease. "You're right," he said after a moment, nodding his head ever so slightly. "It could have gone much worse. And I'm not going to give up on Neah. I know the truth of him, even if he doesn't realize it about himself just yet."
Cross scoffed and shook his head. "You really are an idiot."
Mana just laughed. "And you're guilty by association so there."
A fact which, to his great horror, Cross was unable to deny. So the red haired teen had to simply settle for growling under his breath before shoving his partner. "Move your ass. We have to get the Innocence back to headquarters before people start asking too many questions. Questions that I know for a fact you aren't going to want to answer."
"Right," Mana said with a nod, knowing exactly what Cross was referring to. As he turned to follow Cross back toward the town Mana allowed his thoughts to wander back to his brother. "I'm not going to give up on you Neah... I know the type of person that you're capable of being and I won't rest until I see that person standing beside me."
A/N - End of another chapter, hope that you enjoyed. Wow, but it feels weird to be writing so much. My inspiration must have improved since it was reincarnated. Hope this lasts. XD